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Cache-coherency Protocol With Recently Read State For Data And Instructions - Patent 5996049

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Cache-coherency Protocol With Recently Read State For Data And Instructions - Patent 5996049 Powered By Docstoc
					


United States Patent: 5996049


































 
( 1 of 1 )



	United States Patent 
	5,996,049



 Arimilli
,   et al.

 
November 30, 1999




 Cache-coherency protocol with recently read state for data and
     instructions



Abstract

A method of providing instructions and data values to a processing unit in
     a multi-processor computer system, by expanding the prior-art MESI
     cache-coherency protocol to include an additional cache-entry state
     corresponding to a most recently accessed state. Each cache of the
     processing units has at least one cache line with a block for storing the
     instruction or data value, and an indication is provided that a cache line
     having a block which contains the instruction or data value is in a
     "recently read" state. Each cache entry has three bits to indicate the
     current state of the cache entry (one of five possible states). A
     processing unit which desires to access a shared instruction or data value
     detects transmission of the indication from the cache having the most
     recently accessed copy, and the instruction or data value is sourced from
     this cache. Upon sourcing the instruction or data value, the cache that
     originally contained the most recently accessed copy thereof changes its
     indication to indicate that its copy is now shared, and the processing
     unit which accessed the instruction or data value is thereafter indicated
     as having the cache containing the copy thereof that was most recently
     accessed. This protocol allows instructions and data values which are
     shared among several caches to be sourced directly (intervened) by the
     cache having the most recently accessed copy, without retrieval from
     system memory (RAM), significantly improving the processing speed of the
     computer system.


 
Inventors: 
 Arimilli; Ravi Kumar (Austin, TX), Dodson; John Steven (Pflugerville, TX), Kaiser; John Michael (Cedar Park, TX), Lewis; Jerry Don (Round Rock, TX) 
 Assignee:


International Business Machines Corporation
 (Armonk, 
NY)





Appl. No.:
                    
 08/839,548
  
Filed:
                      
  April 14, 1997





  
Current U.S. Class:
  711/141  ; 711/123; 711/146; 711/E12.033
  
Current International Class: 
  G06F 12/08&nbsp(20060101); G06F 012/16&nbsp()
  
Field of Search: 
  
  









 711/123,141,142,143,144,145,146,119,122,120
  

References Cited  [Referenced By]
U.S. Patent Documents
 
 
 
4959777
September 1990
Holman, Jr.

5289588
February 1994
Song et al.

5317716
May 1994
Liu

5479630
December 1995
Killian

5522057
May 1996
Lichy

5551005
August 1996
Sarangdhar et al.

5586298
December 1996
Shah

5623632
April 1997
Liu et al.

5659708
August 1997
Arimilli et al.

5673413
September 1997
Deshpande et al.

5802563
September 1998
Hagersten et al.

5809560
September 1998
Schneider



   
 Other References 

Handy, Jim, "The Cache Memory Book", Academic Dress, ISBN 0-12-322985-5, pp. 102, 143-190, 1993..  
  Primary Examiner:  Cabeca; John W.


  Assistant Examiner:  Lee; Felix B.


  Attorney, Agent or Firm: Henkler; Richard A.
Musgrove; Jack V.
Dillon; Andrew J.



Claims  

We claim:

1.  A method of providing program instructions and data values to a processing unit in a multi-processor computer system, comprising the steps of:


loading an instruction into a first plurality of cache blocks, the blocks residing respectively in a plurality of caches, each cache associated with a respective one of a plurality of processing units of the computer system;


loading a data value into a second plurality of cache blocks, the blocks residing respectively in the caches;


providing a first indication of which of the cache blocks, from among the first plurality of cache blocks, contains a copy of the instruction that was most recently accessed;


providing a second indication of which of the cache blocks, from among the second plurality of cache blocks, contains a copy of the data that was most recently accessed;


responding to a first inquiry from a processing unit desiring to access the instruction by transmitting the first indication;  and


responding to a second inquiry from a processing unit desiring to access the data value by transmitting the second indication.


2.  The method of claim 1 wherein:


each cache block has a first plurality of bits for storing the instruction or data value and a second plurality of bits for storing a state value;  and


said steps of providing an indication include the steps of assigning a state value to the second plurality of bits in the cache block containing the copy of the instruction that was most recently accessed and assigning a state value to the second
plurality of bits in the cache block containing the copy of the data value that was most recently accessed.


3.  The method of claim 1 further comprising the steps of:


the processing unit which desires to access the instruction detecting transmission of the first indication;  and


the processing unit which desires to access the data value detecting transmission of the second indication.


4.  The method of claim 1 further comprising the steps of:


the processing unit, which has the cache containing a copy of the instruction that was most recently accessed, sourcing the instruction to the processing unit desiring to access the instruction;  and


the processing unit, which has the cache containing a copy of the data value that was most recently accessed, sourcing the data value to the processing unit desiring to access the data value.


5.  The method of claim 1 wherein:


the inquiry from the processing unit desiring to access the instruction indicates that said processing unit desires to read the instruction;  and


further comprising the step of changing the indication to indicate that the cache of the processing unit desiring to access the instruction is now the cache containing a copy of the instruction that was most recently accessed.


6.  The method of claim 1 wherein:


the inquiry from the processing unit desiring to access the data value indicates that processing unit desires to read the data value;  and


further comprising the step of changing the indication to indicate that the cache of the processing unit desiring to access the data value is now the cache containing a copy of the data value that was most recently accessed.


7.  The method of claim 1 wherein:


the inquiry from the processing unit desiring to access the data value indicates that said processing unit desires to write the data value;  and


further comprising the step of changing the indication to indicate that the cache which contained a copy of the data value that was most recently accessed now has an invalid copy of the data value.


8.  The method of claim 1 further comprising the steps of:


modifying the data value in the cache that contains a copy of the data value that was most recently accessed;  and


providing a new indication that the data value has been modified.


9.  The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of providing an additional indication that any cache containing the instruction, other than the cache containing a copy of the instruction that was most recently accessed, has a shared copy of
the instruction.


10.  The method of claim 1 further comprising the step of providing an additional indication that any cache containing the data value, other than the cache containing a copy of the data value that was most recently accessed, has a shared copy of
the data value.


11.  The method of claim 5 comprising the further step of providing an additional indication that the cache which previously contained a copy of the instruction that was most recently accessed now has a shared copy of the instruction.


12.  The method of claim 6 comprising the further step of providing an additional indication that the cache which previously contained a copy of the data value that was most recently accessed now has a shared copy of the data value.


13.  A computer system comprising:


a memory device;


a bus connected to said memory device;  and


a plurality of processing units connected to said bus, each processing unit having a cache, and each cache having a plurality of blocks for storing instructions and data values from said memory device, and each cache further having means for
indicating which of said cache blocks, from among a first plurality of the blocks, contains the most recently accessed copy of an instruction and for indicating which of said cache blocks, from among a second plurality of the blocks, contains the most
recently accessed copy of a data value.


14.  The computer system of claim 13 wherein each said cache block includes a cache entry having a first plurality of bits for storing the instruction or data value and a second plurality of bits for identifying a state of a given cache entry,
said state providing an indication of which of said cache blocks contains the most recently accessed copy of the instruction and an indication of which of said cache blocks contains the most recently accessed copy of the data value.


15.  The computer system of claim 13 further comprising means for sourcing the instruction from a cache containing the most recently accessed copy of the instruction to a cache of a processing unit desiring to read the instruction and for
sourcing the data value from a cache containing the most recently accessed copy of the data value to a cache of a processing unit desiring to read the data value.


16.  The computer system of claim 13 wherein each said cache further includes means for changing any indication that a cache contains the most recently accessed copy of the instruction in response to an inquiry from a processing unit desiring to
read the instruction and for changing any indication that a cache contains the most recently accessed copy of the data value in response to an inquiry from a processing unit desiring to read the data value.


17.  The computer system of claim 13 wherein each said cache further includes means for indicating that a copy of the data value is invalid, in response to an inquiry from a processing unit desiring to modify the data value.


18.  The computer system of claim 13 wherein each said cache further has means for indicating, if it has a copy of the instruction that was not most recently accessed, that it has a shared copy of the instruction and for indicating, if it has a
copy of the data value that was not most recently accessed, that it has a shared copy of the data value.


19.  The computer system of claim 14 wherein said second plurality of bits, in addition to identifying a state of a given cache entry as being the most recently accessed copy of the data value, is further adapted to identify the given cache entry
as being in a modified state, an exclusive state, a shared state, or an invalid state.  Description  

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION


1.  Field of the Invention


The present invention generally relates to computer systems, and more particularly to a cache-coherency protocol which provides for a most recently referenced state allowing improvements in cache intervention of data and instructions.


2.  Description of the Related Art


The basic structure of a conventional multi-processor computer system 10 is shown in FIG. 1.  Computer system 10 has several processing units, two of which 12a and 12b are depicted, which are connected to various peripheral devices, including
input/output (I/O) devices 14 (such as a display monitor, keyboard, graphical pointer (mouse), and a permanent storage device (hard disk)), memory device 16 (such as random access memory or RAM) that is used by the processing units to carry out program
instructions, and firmware 18 whose primary purpose is to seek out and load an operating system from one of the peripherals (usually the permanent memory device) whenever the computer is first turned on.  Processing units 12a and 12b communicate with the
peripheral devices by various means, including a generalized interconnect or bus 20, or direct-memory-access channels (not shown).  Computer system 10 may have many additional components which are not shown, such as serial and parallel ports for
connection to, e.g., modems or printers.  Those skilled in the art will further appreciate that there are other components that might be used in conjunction with those shown in the block diagram of FIG. 1; for example, a display adapter might be used to
control a video display monitor, a memory controller can be used to access memory 16, etc. The computer can also have more than two processing units.


In a symmetric multi-processor (SMP) computer, all of the processing units are generally identical; that is, they all use a common set or subset of instructions and protocols to operate, and generally have the same architecture.  A typical
architecture is shown in FIG. 1.  A processing unit includes a processor core 22 having a plurality of registers and execution units, which carry out program instructions in order to operate the computer.  An exemplary processing unit includes the
PowerPC.TM.  processor marketed by International Business Machines Corporation.  The processing unit can also have one or more caches, such as an instruction cache 24 and a data cache 26, which are implemented using high-speed memory devices.  Caches are
commonly used to temporarily store values that might be repeatedly accessed by a processor, in order to speed up processing by avoiding the longer step of loading the values from memory 16.  These caches are referred to as "on-board" when they are
integrally packaged with the processor core on a single integrated chip 28.  Each cache is associated with a cache controller (not shown) that manages the transfer of data and instructions between the processor core and the cache memory.


A processing unit can include additional caches, such as cache 30, which is referred to as a level 2 (L2) cache since it supports the on-board (level 1) caches 24 and 26.  In other words, cache 30 acts as an intermediary between memory 16 and the
on-board caches, and can store a much larger amount of information (instructions and data) than the on-board caches can, but at a longer access penalty.  For example, cache 30 may be a chip having a storage capacity of 256 or 512 kilobytes, while the
processor may be an IBM PowerPC.TM.  604-series processor having on-board caches with 64 kilobytes of total storage.  Cache 30 is connected to bus 20, and all loading of information from memory 16 into processor core 22 must come through cache 30. 
Although FIG. 1 depicts only a two-level cache hierarchy, multi-level cache hierarchies can be provided where there are many levels (L3, L4, etc.) of serially connected caches.


In an SMP computer, it is important to provide a coherent memory system, that is, to cause writes to each individual memory location to be serialized in some order for all processors.  For example, assume a location in memory is modified by a
sequence of write operations to take on the values: 1, 2, 3, 4.  In a cache-coherent system, all processors will observe the writes to a given location to take place in the order shown.  However, it is possible for a processing element to miss a write to
the memory location.  A given processing element reading the memory location could see the sequence 1, 3, 4, missing the update to the value 2.  A system that implements these properties is said to be "coherent." Virtually all coherency protocols operate
only to the granularity of the size of a cache block.  That is to say, the coherency protocol controls the movement of and write permissions for data and instructions on a cache block basis and not separately for each individual memory location.


There are a number of protocols and techniques for achieving cache coherence that are known to those skilled in the art.  At the heart of all these mechanisms for maintaining coherency is the requirement that the protocols allow only one
processor to have a "permission" that allows a write to a given memory location (cache block) at any given point in time.  As a consequence of this requirement, whenever a processing element attempts to write to a memory location, it must first inform
all other processing elements of its desire to write the location and receive permission from all other processing elements to carry out the write.  The key issue is that all other processors in the system must be informed of the write by the initiating
processor before the write occurs.  Furthermore, if a block is present in the L1 cache of a given processing unit, it is also present in the L2 and L3 caches of that processing unit.  This property is known as inclusion and is well-known to those skilled
in the art.  Henceforth, it is assumed that the principle of inclusion applies to the caches related to the present invention.


To implement cache coherency in a system, the processors communicate over a common generalized interconnect (i.e., bus 20).  The processors pass messages over the interconnect indicating their desire to read or write memory locations.  When an
operation is placed on the interconnect, all of the other processors "snoop" (monitor) this operation and decide if the state of their caches can allow the requested operation to proceed and, if so, under what conditions.  There are several bus
transactions that require snooping and follow-up action to honor the bus transactions and maintain memory coherency.  The snooping operation is triggered by the receipt of a qualified snoop request, generated by the assertion of certain bus signals.


This communication is necessary because, in systems with caches, the most recent valid copy of a given block of memory may have moved from the system memory 16 to one or more of the caches in the system (as mentioned above).  If a processor (say
12a) attempts to access a memory location not present within its cache hierarchy, the correct version of the block, which contains the actual (current) value for the memory location, may either be in the system memory 16 or in one of more of the caches
in another processing unit, e.g. processing unit 12b.  If the correct version is in one or more of the other caches in the system, it is necessary to obtain the correct value from the cache(s) in the system instead of system memory.


For example, consider a processor, say 12a, attempting to read a location in memory.  It first polls its own L1 cache (24 or 26).  If the block is not present in the L1 cache, the request is forwarded to the L2 cache (30).  If the block is not
present in the L2 cache, the request is forwarded on to lower cache levels, e.g., the L3 cache.  If the block is not present in the lower-level caches, the request is then presented on the generalized interconnect (20) to be serviced.  Once an operation
has been placed on the generalized interconnect, all other lower-level caches snoop the operation and determine if the block is present in their caches.  If a given processing unit has the block requested by the processing unit in its L1 cache, and the
value in that block is modified, by the principle of inclusion the L2 cache and any lower-level caches also have copies of the block (however, their copies are stale, since the copy in the processor's cache is modified).  Therefore, when the lowest-level
cache (e.g., L3) of the processing unit snoops the read operation, it will determine that the block requested is present and modified in a higher-level cache.  When this occurs, the L3 cache places a message on the generalized interconnect informing the
processing unit that it must "retry" its operation again at a later time, because the actual value of the memory location is in the L1 cache at the top of the memory hierarchy and must be retrieved to make it available to service the read request of the
initiating processing unit.


Once the request from an initiating processing unit has been retried, the L3 cache begins a process to retrieve the modified value from the L1 cache and make it available at the L3 cache, main memory or both, depending on the exact details of the
implementation which are not specifically relevant to this invention.  To retrieve the block from the higher-level caches, the L3 cache sends messages through the inter-cache connections to the higher-level caches, requesting that the block be retrieved. These messages propagate up the processing unit hierarchy until they reach the L1 cache and cause the block to be moved down the hierarchy to the lowest level (L3 or main memory) to be able to service the request from the initiating processing unit.


The initiating processing unit eventually retries the read request on the generalized interconnect.  At this point, however, the modified value has been retrieved from the L1 cache of a processing unit and the read request from the initiating
processor will be satisfied.  The scenario just described is commonly referred to as a "snoop push." A read request is snooped on the generalized interconnect which causes the processing unit to "push" the block to the bottom of the hierarchy to satisfy
the read request made by the initiating processing unit.


The key point to note is that when a processor wishes to read or write a block, it must communicate that desire with the other processing units in the system in order to maintain cache coherence.  To achieve this, the cache coherence protocol
associates with each block in each level of the cache hierarchy, a status indicator indicating the current "state" of the block.  The state information is used to allow certain optimizations in the coherency protocol that reduce message traffic on the
generalized interconnect and the inter-cache connections.  As one example of this mechanism, when a processing unit executes a read, it receives a message indicating whether or not the read must be retried later.  If the read operation is not retried,
the message usually also includes information allowing the processing unit to determine if any other processing unit also has a still-active copy of the block (this is accomplished by having the other lowest-level caches give a "shared" or "not shared"
indication for any read they do not retry).  Therefore, a processing unit can determine whether any other processor in the system has a copy of the block.  If no other processing unit has an active copy of the block, the reading processing unit marks the
state of the block as "exclusive." If a block is marked exclusive, it is permissible to allow the processing unit to later write the block without first communicating with other processing units in the system because no other processing unit has a copy
of the block.  Therefore, it is possible for a processor to read or write a location without first communicating this intention onto the interconnection, but only where the coherency protocol has ensured that no other processor has an interest in the
block.


The foregoing cache-coherency technique is implemented in a specific protocol referred to as "MESI," and illustrated in FIG. 2.  In this protocol, a cache block can be in one of four states, "M" (Modified), "E" (Exclusive), "S" (Shared) or "I"
(Invalid).  Under the MESI protocol, each cache entry (e.g., a 32-byte sector) has two additional bits which indicate the state of the entry, out of the four possible states.  Depending upon the initial state of the entry and the type of access sought by
the requesting processor, the state may be changed, and a particular state is set for the entry in the requesting processor's cache.  For example, when a sector is in the Modified state, the addressed sector is valid only in the cache having the modified
sector, and the modified value has not been written back to system memory.  When a sector is Exclusive, it is present only in the noted sector, and is consistent with system memory.  If a sector is Shared, it is valid in that cache and in at least one
other cache, all of the shared sectors being consistent with system memory.  Finally, when a sector is Invalid, it indicates that the addressed sector is not resident in the cache.  As seen in FIG. 2, if a sector is in any of the Modified, Shared or
Invalid states, it can move between the states depending upon the particular bus transaction.  While a sector in an Exclusive state can move to any other state, a sector can only become Exclusive if it is first Invalid.


A further improvement in accessing cache blocks can be achieved using the aforementioned cache-coherency protocol.  This improvement, referred to as "intervention," allows a cache having control over a memory block to provide the data or
instruction in that block directly to another cache requesting the value (for a read-type operation), in other words, bypassing the need to write the data or instruction to system memory and then have the requesting processor read it back again from
memory.  Intervention can only be performed by a cache having the value in a block whose state is Modified or Exclusive.  In both of these states, there is only one cache block that has a valid copy of the value, so it is a simple matter to source the
value over the bus 20 without the necessity of first writing it to system memory.  The intervention procedure thus speeds up processing by avoiding the longer process of writing to and reading from system memory (which actually involves three bus
operations and two memory operations).  This procedure not only results in better latency, but also increased usable bus bandwidth.


Prior-art protocols do not provide for intervention when data or instructions are held in Shared states by two or more caches because, generally, it is difficult to determine which cache would source the value.  Intervention with Shared cache
states can be provided if a system collects all of the Shared responses and then picks (e.g., arbitrarily) which cache should source the value, but this approach is generally no faster than getting the value from memory, and so it provides little
benefit.  Also, since instructions which are prepared for execution (as opposed to data) are never written, only read, the state of any cache block containing only valid instructions is always Shared, and so instructions cannot be sourced by way of
intervention.  It would, therefore, be desirable to devise a method of maintaining cache coherency which allowed for efficient intervention of data with Shared states.  It would be further advantageous if the method could be utilized for instructions as
well as data.


SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION


It is therefore one object of the present invention to provide an improved method of maintaining cache coherency in a multi-processor computer system.


It is another object of the present invention to provide such a method that allows for improved intervention response.


It is yet another object of the present invention to provide such a method that additionally allows intervention when two or more caches hold the relevant instruction or data in a shared (i.e., valid) state.


The foregoing objects are achieved in a method of providing instructions and data to a processing unit in a multi-processor computer system, generally comprising the steps of loading instructions and data into a plurality of caches, each cache
associated with a respective one of a plurality of processing units of the computer system, providing a first indication of which of the caches contains a copy of the instruction that was most recently accessed and a second indication of which of the
caches contains a copy of the data that was most recently accessed, and responding to a first inquiry from a processing unit desiring to access the instruction by transmitting the first indication and responding to a second inquiry from a processing unit
desiring to access the data by transmitting the second indication.  Each cache has at least one cache line with a block for storing the instruction or data, and the step of providing an indication indicates that a cache line having a block which contains
the instruction or data is in a "recently read" state.  Each cache has a first plurality of bits for storing the instruction or data, and the step of providing an indication further includes the step of assigning a state value to a second plurality of
bits in the cache containing the copy of the instruction or data that was most recently accessed.  The processing unit which desires to access the instruction or data detects transmission of the indication, and the instruction or data is sourced from the
cache containing the copy thereof that was most recently accessed.  Upon sourcing the instruction or data, the cache that originally contained the most recently accessed copy thereof changes its indication to indicate that its copy is now shared, and the
processing unit which accessed the instruction or data is thereafter indicated as having the cache containing the copy that was most recently accessed.  The foregoing protocol allows instructions and data which are shared among several caches, i.e.,
valid in those caches, to be sourced directly (intervened) by the cache having the most recently accessed copy, without retrieving the instructions from system memory (RAM).  This approach significantly improves the processing speed of the computer
system. 

The above as well as additional objectives, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent in the following detailed written description.


BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS


The novel features believed characteristic of the invention are set forth in the appended claims.  The invention itself, however, as well as a preferred mode of use, further objectives, and advantages thereof, will best be understood by reference
to the following detailed description of an illustrative embodiment when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:


FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a prior-art multi-processor computer system;


FIG. 2 is a state diagram depicting a prior-art cache-coherency protocol (MESI); and


FIG. 3 is a state diagram depicting the cache-coherency protocol of the present invention. 

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT


The present invention is directed to a method of maintaining cache coherency in a multi-processor system, such as the system of FIG. 1, but the present invention could be applied to computer systems that are not necessarily conventional, i.e.,
they could include new hardware components not shown in FIG. 1, or have a novel interconnection architecture for existing components.  Therefore, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the present invention is not limited to the generalized system
shown in that figure.


With reference now to FIG. 3, there is depicted a state diagram of one embodiment of the cache-coherency protocol of the present invention.  This protocol is similar to the prior-art MESI protocol of FIG. 2, in that it includes the same four
states (Modified, Exclusive, Shared and Invalid), but it also includes a new "R" state (Recent), for providing an indication of the most recently referenced block that would otherwise have a shared indication.  In other words, when two or more caches
hold valid copies of an instruction or data value, all of them will be in the Shared state except for the cache which most recently accessed the instruction or data value, and that cache will be in the Recent state.  Since there are now five possible
total states, each cache entry requires a three-bit field (instead of a two-bit field as in the prior art) to identify which state the entry possesses.


This new protocol is referred to herein as the "R-MESI" protocol.  Under this protocol, a new coherency response is also provided, that of Shared-Intervention, as explained further below.  As with the prior-art protocol, the four M-E-S-I states
may change based on the initial state of the entry and the type of access sought by the requesting processor.  The manner in which these four states change is generally identical to the prior-art MESI protocol, with the exceptions noted below.


Table 1 shows the master cache state transitions for read-type operations, where a "miss" occurs:


 TABLE 1  ______________________________________ Bus Master Coherency  Operation  State Response  ______________________________________ 1 Read I .fwdarw. R ShrI, Shr, or Mod  2 RWITM I .fwdarw. E ShrI, Shr, or Null  3 Read I .fwdarw. E Null  4
RWITM I .fwdarw. M Mod  ______________________________________


The Recent state is entered on a "Read miss" bus operation (the first row of Table 1) if the coherency response is Modified (Mod), Shared (Shr), or Shared-Intervention (ShrI); if the response is Modified on a "Read miss" operation, the modified
cache will send the instruction or data to memory also, so it is no longer Modified.  If there is no coherency response (Null) on a "Read miss" operation (the third row of Table 1), then the Exclusive state is entered as with the prior-art MESI protocol. On an "RWITM miss" operation (RWITM is an abbreviation for Read With Intent To Modify), the Exclusive state is entered if the coherency response is Null, Shr or ShrI (the second row of Table 1), and the Modified state is entered if the coherency response
is Mod (the fourth row of Table 1).  The RWITM cases apply only to data or instructions still being prepared for execution, since instructions once prepared for execution typically are not modified.


Table 2 shows an example of how the bus transactions influence the cache when acting as a snooper, for read-type operations (read hits):


 TABLE 2  ______________________________________ Bus Snooper Coherency  Operation State Response  ______________________________________ 1 Read-Burst R .fwdarw. S  ShrI  2 Read-Burst E .fwdarw. S  ShrI  3 Read-Burst M .fwdarw. S  Mod  4 RWITM E
or R .fwdarw. I  ShrI  5 RWITM M .fwdarw. I  Mod  ______________________________________


For either an Exclusive or Recent beginning state (the first, second, and fourth rows of Table 2), the cache will transmit a Shared-Intervention coherency response, meaning that it will source its copy of the instruction or data via intervention
directly to the requesting processor, without involvement from the system memory.  Whenever an instruction is so sourced, the next state becomes Shared for a "Read hit" operation (the first and second rows of Table 2) or Invalid for an "RWITM hit"
operation (the fourth row of Table 2).  In those cases where the beginning state is Modified (the third and fifth rows of Table 2), which again do not apply in the case of instructions since program instructions are typically not modified, the coherency
response will be Modified; intervention still occurs.  If the bus operation was an "RWITM," the data is transferred from cache to cache, but if the bus operation was a read, the data is sent both to the cache and to memory.


As noted above, for those states and operations not shown in Tables 1 and 2, transitions and coherency responses are performed in accordance with the prior-art MESI protocol with one qualification, namely, a cache entry can have an "R" state
which is subjected to a write operation, and that entry will undergo a transition to a Modified state in a manner similar to that occurring when a Shared entry is subjected to a write operation.  The following points might further be noted with respect
to the R-MESI protocol: an entry can never go from Invalid to Shared (it would go to Recent instead); an entry can never go from Exclusive to Recent (it would go to Shared); an entry can never go from Recent to Exclusive (just as a Shared entry cannot go
to Exclusive); and an entry can never go from Modified to Recent (it would go to Shared, while entry in the cache of the requesting processor would go to Recent).


With this new R-MESI protocol, the ownership of a block migrates to the last cache to read the instruction or data, which has the added benefit of staying most recently used and thereby lessening the chance of deallocation if a least recently
used (LRU) cache replacement mechanism is employed.  The "R" cache state can also be advantageously used for other applications, such as an intelligent input/output (I/O) controller interrupting the processor/cache which has most recently read a cached
I/O status location, since this processor/cache would be most likely to have cached the I/O device driver code and, therefore, could execute the code faster than in another processor that needs to fetch the code into its cache.


By providing intervention for shared instructions and data (that is, instructions or data which are validly present in more than one cache) memory latency is significantly improved.  In one evaluation of the R-MESI protocol, performance increased
according to an industry standard benchmark from 5300 TPM.sub.c to 7500 TPM.sub.c (transactions per minute), when compared to the prior-art MESI protocol.  Generally, the present invention frees up the memory controller, and demand on memory bandwidth is
lessened.


Although the invention has been described with reference to specific embodiments, this description is not meant to be construed in a limiting sense.  Various modifications of the disclosed embodiment, as well as alternative embodiments of the
invention, will become apparent to persons skilled in the art upon reference to the description of the invention.  It is therefore contemplated that such modifications can be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the present invention as
defined in the appended claims.


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DOCUMENT INFO
Description: 1. Field of the InventionThe present invention generally relates to computer systems, and more particularly to a cache-coherency protocol which provides for a most recently referenced state allowing improvements in cache intervention of data and instructions.2. Description of the Related ArtThe basic structure of a conventional multi-processor computer system 10 is shown in FIG. 1. Computer system 10 has several processing units, two of which 12a and 12b are depicted, which are connected to various peripheral devices, includinginput/output (I/O) devices 14 (such as a display monitor, keyboard, graphical pointer (mouse), and a permanent storage device (hard disk)), memory device 16 (such as random access memory or RAM) that is used by the processing units to carry out programinstructions, and firmware 18 whose primary purpose is to seek out and load an operating system from one of the peripherals (usually the permanent memory device) whenever the computer is first turned on. Processing units 12a and 12b communicate with theperipheral devices by various means, including a generalized interconnect or bus 20, or direct-memory-access channels (not shown). Computer system 10 may have many additional components which are not shown, such as serial and parallel ports forconnection to, e.g., modems or printers. Those skilled in the art will further appreciate that there are other components that might be used in conjunction with those shown in the block diagram of FIG. 1; for example, a display adapter might be used tocontrol a video display monitor, a memory controller can be used to access memory 16, etc. The computer can also have more than two processing units.In a symmetric multi-processor (SMP) computer, all of the processing units are generally identical; that is, they all use a common set or subset of instructions and protocols to operate, and generally have the same architecture. A typicalarchitecture is shown in FIG. 1. A processing unit includes a processor